Energy Secretary, Duterte campaign donor file suits against journalists
CMFR/PHILIPPINES – Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and Udenna Corporation Chair and Duterte campaign donor Dennis Uy have filed separate libel and cyberlibel complaints against several journalists in the Philippines for their reportage on the allegedly questionable deal in the Malampaya deep water to gas project. The complaints were filed on November 29. Cusi filed in Taguig while Uy filed in Davao.
Cusi and Uy collectively filed charges against 21 journalists, editors and media executives of ABS-CBN News, Business Mirror, BusinessWorld, GMA News, Rappler, Manila Bulletin, and Philstar Global Corp.
In October, the media reported details of the graft complaint filed against Cusi, Uy and 24 others before the Office of the Ombudsman by a group of concerned citizens. The complaint alleged a conspiracy to favor Uy in the sale of Chevron’s shares on the Malampaya project.
Both Cusi and Uy accused the respondents of maliciously reporting that they committed illegal acts in the process of the Malampaya shares deal.
Respondents charged included Carlo Katigbak and Lynda Jumilla of ABS-CBN; Samuel Medenilla, Lenie Lectura and Lourdes Fernandez of Business Mirror; Wilfredo Reyes and Bianca Angela Añago of BusinessWorld; Jaemark Tordecilla and Ted Cordero of GMA News; Herminio Coloma, Loreto Cabañes, and Jel Santos of Manila Bulletin; Maria Ressa, Glenda Gloria, Chay Hofileña and Aika Rey of Rappler; and, Camille Diola, Ian Nicolas Cigaral (PhilStar.com) and Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) of Philstar Global Corp.
According to an Inquirer report, Uy also filed charges against Anjo Bagaoisan of ABS-CBN News; Benjamin Ramos of Business Mirror; and one private citizen.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in a statement said that the libel suits were meant to intimidate journalists. The organization said that it “stands in solidarity with colleagues facing cyber libel complaints” and urged Cusi to drop the complaints and “instead focus his attention on explaining to the public what happened in the Malampaya gas deal.” NUJP also reiterated its call to decriminalize libel in the country.
Libel is still a criminal offense in the Philippines despite calls for its decriminalization. In October 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Committee urged the Philippine government to review its 84-year-old libel law which it described as “excessive.” CMFR and journalists’ groups have been campaigning for the decriminalization of libel for more than two decades.
Meanwhile, online libel is also a crime under Republic Act (RA) 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which penalizes crimes committed through computers and online. The punishment for online libel is also “one degree higher” than that provided for libel in the Revised Penal Code.